Easter egg banana bread!

21 Mar

Spring is here! Officially, if not all that evidently…

And there’s nothing like spring to conjure up images of all that’s joyful; bleating, awkwardly leaping lambs, blousy bright yellow daffodils, splurges of colour appearing out of nowhere on grass verges and under trees, gently purple swathes of bluebells carpetting woodland floors and bubbling birdsong filtering through the newly green leaves.

With spring comes Easter, and whether it’s a meaningful religious occasion or just an excuse to gorge on chocolate, there’s something so homely and comforting about tucking into toasted hot cross buns slathered with dripping butter and homemade simnel cake topped with yellow marzipan – I always insisted on an extra marzipan disciples on the cake due to extreme sorrow over the fate of poor old Judas – and of course a glut of Easter eggs.

It’s long been a mystery to me why Easter egg chocolate tastes so much better than regular bars – can anyone help me out here? There’s no real reason I can think of why that should be the case, but it’s just, well…better isn’t it?

Last year I found myself with a clutch of uneaten mini chocolate eggs, and loathe to have them lying around, taunting me with their gaudily innocent pink, blue and green wrappers, I decided to team them up in that deliciously moreish combo, banana and milk chocolate, and having rather painstakingly unwrapped and chopped in half each egg, I turned them into Easter Egg Banana Bread.

There are no words for the deliciousness of gently melting Easter egg against baked, caramelised banana in a crumbling, impatiently carved out slice of warm loaf. And if you’re not the type to recognise the concept of leftover Easter eggs, I suggest buying extra, especially for the purpose. After all, it’ a whole year until the chocolate harvest tastes as good again!

Easter eggs

What you need:

285g plain flour
1 a teaspoon bicarbonate of soda
110g butter
1/2 a teaspoon salt
200g caster sugar
25g dark brown sugar
2 eggs
4 ripe or overipe bananas (mashed)
85 mls of milk with a squeeze of lemon juice in it (a handy substitute for buttermilk which can be hard to find)
1 teaspoon vanilla extract

Plus…as many Easter eggs as you deem appropriate.

What to do:

Preheat the oven to 180 degrees C and grease a loaf tin – I put a square of greaseproof paper on the bottom too for extra non-stick power.
 
Use an electric whisk to whisk the butter (room temperature – it’s really hard if it’s straight from the fridge) with the sugar until it’s nice and fluffy.
 
Add the eggs, mashed banana, milk mix and vanilla extract and whisk together.
 
Sift and then fold in the flour and stir through the broken up/chopped Easter eggs. 
 
Tip it into the tin and sprinkle a bit of brown sugar on the top for a deliciously crispy little bit of topping.
 
Bake for about an hour. My oven takes about an hour and a quarter, but all ovens are different. Give it at least 40/50 minutes so that it’s well and truly risen before popping a skewer or a knife in it. If it comes out clean, it’s done. If there’s still mixture on it, pop it back in.
 
When it’s golden and no batter sticks, take it out and leave it for a minute or so. Then tip it out – best way it to put a plate over then flip it upside down and tap the bottom. Run a sharp knife round the edge first to loosen it if you need to. Then when it’s out (upside down) just flip it again onto a rack to cool. Or another plate if you don’t have one.
 
Tadah! Don’t cut it while it’s still really hot or it will just crumble apart. But do really, it’s too good not to.

Easter Egg Banana Bread

Happy Easter baking!

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Leftovers soup

13 Mar

I’ve always been pretty good at not throwing food away and using every last scrap. Growing up in Kenya we didn’t have labels and sell by dates on our market bought fruit and veg, fish from the fisherman who hawked it up to our garden gate or the clanging tin churns of milk from over the road. We sniffed, squished, mused, washed and made a decision based on our food’s edibility using our eyes, noses and tastebuds. And it still makes me squirm and bite my tongue when I see friends glance at the label and declare food to be out of date, binning it without even removing it from its vaccuum packed prison to check whether it’s useable or not.

But lately I’ve become even more militant in an attempt to both save cash and assauge my conscience about not being a naughty food waster.

The funny thing is, the more you use your scraps, the less you can bear to throw anything away – you become so conscious of your utter wastefulness and if you’re anything like me, begin to feel overly emotional about chucking out those poor wrinkly carrots, sniffing sadly a bit as you accept that that waterlogged, really quite black basil is actually completely disgusting and can’t be used, and throwing the hard, rindy ends of cheese into soups rather than throwing them. The idea of buying all these gluts of food only to throw half of it away just seems even more wanton and grotesque.

This week I had a plan to make some soup for my lunch the next day, but didn’t get a chance to get to the grocer. I knew I had some veggies knocking around, so set to the task of conjuring something lovely out of whatever was lurking in my fridge and cupboards. I came up with this, and it was so pleasing that I thought I’d blog the recipe. The red pepper and orange butternut squash flash made for a deliciously vibrant colour and the heat of the chilli is lovely with the roast squash, the potatoes just adding a welcome bit of silkiness and substance. It’s unlikely that you’ll have exactly the same ingredients lying around, but hopefully it might inspire you to skip the supermarket, dig out those sprouting potatoes and wilting spinach, lightly squidgesome pepper or green-centred garlic, cut out the dodgy bits and cook up something delicious – with all the added virtue of knowing you haven’t gluttonously splurged your money only to bin it as soon as it’s not quite perfect.

Lovely, healthy soup of goodness.

Lovely, healthy soup of goodness.

What I had:

One butternut squash that needed a 50p sized black bit cutting out of it

Half a slightly tired looking red onion

One rather sad looking red pepper that needed a couple of squidgy bits chopped out

A few cloves of garlic

Two small, sprouting and just a bit soft potatoes

Two spoons of bouillon

A sprinkling of salt

A good slug of olive oil

Some dried chilli flakes

Whatever herbs you fancy – I chucked in a bit of cumin and it was pretty nice

 

What I did

Loosely chopped the squash, pepper and onion, squashed the garlic, doused it in oil, salt, a bit of chilli and some cumin seeds and slung it in the oven at gas mark 6 for about 40 minutes.

After about half an hour of cooking, chucked the chopped potatoes in with about a litre of stock made from the bouillon and boiled until they were soft.

Walloped the roast veggies into the pan with the cooked potatoes and stock, blitzed, ground some pepper over the top from my ever so pleasing Sergeant Pepper mill.

The best pepper mill in the world?

The best pepper mill in the world?

DONE.

On healthy, cheap, virtuous batch of lunchtime soup. Delicious.

Penny stretching power daal…

1 Feb

I don’t know about you lot, but I am feeling bloody poor this year. I’ve been feeling poor for quite sometime. Pretty much my entire career as a journalist. But recently I decided that enough was enough, and although I can hardly be described as living an extravagant lifestyle, savings were going to be made where they could be.

Who knows, perhaps I’ll finally scrape together enough pennies to tick off one or two of the places on my ‘to visit’ list, which is so dusty and untouched that I’ve almost given up on ever leaving these shores.

Most of my outgoings are non-negotiable in their cost. I don’t think my gas supplier would be all that understanding of my request for a discount so I can have a holiday. But food is the one area that I’ve discovered I can really slice a good chunk off if I’m careful. If I make time to visit the greengrocer on the weekend and stock up on fruit and veg, stick to a rigidly planned weekly menu and top up on my essentials – pasta, flour etc from Asda instead of Sainsburys, it really makes a difference. I’ve been raiding the reduced section and filling up the freezer with knockdown goodies and batches of soup and the exciting news is, for the first month in absolutely ages, I didn’t hit my overdraft limit this month! Which feels like a pretty enormous success.

This recipe is perfect for the pennies – so perfect in fact that my boss got me to write it up for our food section, which was quite exciting as I normally stick within the confines of my arts and music pages. It’s also wholesome, hearty and filling, not to mention ridiculously virtuous. The beautiful thing about daal is that you can chuck in whatever vegetables you’ve got lying around – all you really need are the lentils, spices and onion, and beyond that it’s up to you. Stick in some potato if you like it chunkier, or some mushrooms for a nice little robust dash of flavour. This particular combination came from a joyful sibling culinary fest when I went home over Christmas. It was a bit of joint effort from my brother, sister and me on an evening when we really fancied something healthy and tasty and came up with this. The flatbreads were a later experiment, but they’re so easy and tasty I seriously recommend being brave and taking them on. They don’t even take any extra time as you can knock them up while the daal and rice are cooking.

Here it is:

Aubergine and spinach daal

Gorgeous, healthy, cheap goodness.

Gorgeous, healthy, cheap goodness.

Feeds four hungry ones or does about five lunch portions

What you need:

1 aubergine
1 bag of spinach
250g lentils
1 onion
3 cloves garlic
1 teaspoon cumin seeds
1 teasoon garam masala
1 teaspoon turmeric
Half a litre vegetable stock
1 chilli
1.5 teaspoons fresh chopped ginger
Salt to season
A good slug of your oil of choice – olive, sunflower or vegetable
1 tin tomatoes

For the flatbreads

flatbreads 2

100g wholemeal flour
50 mls water
1 tablespoon olive oil
Half a teaspoon cumin seeds (or any spices/seasonings you like)
Pinch of salt

Serve with natural yogurt and brown rice

What to do:

First things first, slice the aubergine, brush with oil and a little salt and grill both sides until they’re golden brown. Grilling the aubergine brings out a really juicy, smoky flavour and gives the flesh a lovely mushy texture. Lay the cooked slices on some kitchen roll and put to one side. You’ll add them later – but it’s nice to get the rest of the daal a little further along first so you don’t overcook them.
Heat up the oil in a large pan and throw in the cumin seeds, garam masala and turmeric – be careful not to burn the spices, it’ll ruin the taste. Give them a little heat and add the crushed garlic, chopped chilli, ginger and chopped onion. Cook until the onions are translucent.
Pour in the lentils and give them a stir in the base so that they’re well coated with flavour before stirring in the stock and tomatoes. It’ll look pretty watery but lentils soak up a lot of water and you can always cook it down/add a bit more water to get the consistency right. Bring it to the boil and turn down to a simmer.
I’d stick the rice on at this point, brown rice takes quite a while and it’s annoying to forget and have to wait for it.
Now it’s just a matter of letting it gently bubble away, so let’s have a look at the flatbreads…
The amounts used here made four mini flatbreads, perfect for two people.
Weigh out the flour and add the water, oil and seasoning in a mixing bowl, with your hands bring it together until you have a good ball of dough.
Knead it on a clean surface for a couple of minutes, split it into four little balls and roll out flat. When you’ve got about five minutes to go on the daal, give them a few minutes each side on a hot griddle pan. I love the charred stripes a griddle pan gives them, but if you don’t have one just dry-fry them. Lovely.
Meanwhile, once the daal is looking good and thick and the lentils are tender, add the aubergine, rinse your spinach if it needs it and stir that in too, letting it wilt into the daal – although I try not to overcook it. It’s nice when it keeps a bit of perk to the leaf.
Dish it up with the nutty brown rice, a good dollop of natural yoghurt and your flatbreads. Delicious. Not only does it keep for a good few days, but the flavours of the spices will come out even better the next day, perfect to last you the week for lunch and save you those sandwich pennies.

Oh, and here’s the cheap eats feature which ran in the Colchester Gazette and the Basildon and Southend Echo. Rather amusing that journalist was judged to be in the same poverty bracket as student and self-employed single mum. Not to mention depressingly accurate…

Pic of cheap eats

Hello autumn…hello best soup in the world…

10 Sep

Blimey! I was only gone a week. But parking up today after work there was a definite drift of yellow leaves in the gutter down Avenue Terrace. And walking Lola in the park I could’ve done with a proper jumper instead of the jersey that’s been seeing me through the colder days of the sorry excuse of a summer we’ve had.

I’m not a fan of the dark days, occasional watery sunlight and freezing rain that autumn brings, but there is one big reason to love autumn – it’s the perfect excuse to curl up on the sofa in a big woolly jumper and gorge on soups and stews, fluffy dumplings in savoury broth and chunky sauces.

Having just got back from Kenya I was having a bit of a hankering for some of the mouthwatering coastal flavours I’d been scoffing for the last week – and I decided to try my hand at a coconut, chili and sweet potato concoction. I didn’t see how throwing pretty much all my favourite flavours into a pot: chili, coconut, garlic, cumin and sweet potato could possibly let me down but something especially magical must have happened in that pot when I wasn’t looking because the result was even better than I’d imagined, and there’ll most definitely be a few more vats of this one made before summer comes around again.

The velvety caramel of the sweet potato and mild milkiness of the coconut means you can sightly go to town on the stronger flavours, with the heat of the chili and the warm cumin coming through perfectly and the pungent garlic giving it a nice base. Obviously adjust the chili to your tastes – I went for a powerful little one which gave such a good warm scorch over the creamy coconut, but go for something milder if you prefer. I also used a particularly delicious bulb of smoked garlic, which my housemate Laura almost threw out because she thought it looked mouldy….I’m running low and I’m not quite sure how I’m going to go back onto regular garlic after those juicy, pungent cloves. If anyone finds another, put it in the post will you?

This soup was particularly perfect for me tonight – not only did it have all the warming, comforting qualities of a good autumnal soup, but a tantalising promise of Kilifi beaches, sunshine and warm coastal chilling to last me a little while longer through the impending cold autumn nights.

Comfort in a bowl.

What you need:

One onion

Three cloves of garlic

One chili – as mild or strong as you like

Two sweet potatos

Cumin seeds

Olive oil

Vegetable stock (I like Bouillon)

One tin of coconut milk

Sea salt

What you need to do:

Chop one sweet potato and shove in the oven (about gas mark 6) with some olive oil, salt and a sprinking of cumin seeds. It’ll get that amazing caramelly flavour as it roasts that’ll make the soup just that little bit richer and smoother.

Heat a good generous slug of olive oil in a big saucepan and throw in the chopped onion, chopped chili, crushed garlic and another sprinkle of cumin seeds with a pinch of sea salt. Once the onion’s gone tranluscent add the other sweet potato, chopped up nicely.

Boil the kettle, make half a litre of stock and pour it over the pan (don’t forget your roasting potatos – give them a turn every now and again.) Bring the stock to the boil and turn down to a simmer.

Simmer for about 20 minutes – or until a knife slides straight through the sweet potato easily. Make sure the one in the oven is properly cooked as well and add that to the pan.

Add the coconut milk and give it a good stir, breaking up the lumps of separated coconut cream as it warms up.

Blitz the lot in the blender and garnish with a few cumin seeds. My fabulous brother also brought me a precious tin of wonderful Spanish olive oil that I can’t seem to stop drizzling (frugally) on everything. So if you happen to have one too, go wild and spare an oily swirl. Deliciousness in a bowl!

Maybe I can bear autumn after all.

Hx

What do you do with rhubarb?

29 Jun

There’s nothing I like better than foraging for food, picking blackberries or stumbling across a clutch of wild strawberries – or even better being presented with a fresh crop of goodies from someone’s garden – and turning it into something lovely. I’ve been known to find blackberries on a Basildon industrial estate and turn them into crumble (after a good soak in salty water to get rid of the lorry fumes!) And happy were the days when we discovered a bush in our overgrown garden in Birmingham, which come the Autumn was positively groaning with slightly cleaner versions of the buggers.

Sometimes it’s even more exciting trying to decide just what to do with your bowls and bowls of berries or slightly bruised windfall apples than doing it the other way around and buying your ingredients to suit whatever it is you’ve decided to make.

I was faced with just such a challenge after a trip to see my Sussex friends Adele and Michael saw me wandering barefoot around their garden on a Sunday morning, admiring Michael’s rhubarb. A fine, healthy specimen, flushed to a perfect deep, luscious pink it truly was a stalk to be admired. Now REALLY! You horrid people. Sensing my admiration,  the generous pair tore me off a few stalks, all good and muddy and fresh, to take home with me back to Essex – what a lucky girl.

But then of course the dilemma was what on earth to do with them. It wasn’t a lack of ideas but rather a surplus of inspiration that didn’t match my limited glut of rhubarb that kept the tempting stalks sitting on my counter for some time.

The glory of rhubarb is it’s frank refusal to be sweetened, while pairing deliciously with soft custard or sprinkled sugar, drizzled honey or sweetened cream, it ferociously maintains it’s tart tingle. I had dreams of stewing it with raisins, honey and spices and topping the lot with a floating cloud of meringue, and I had an enthusiastic take up on Twitter of divine sounding suggestions including poaching it with ginger and topping it with cream, of course turning into that queenly pud the crumble and a very wicked sounding cocktail of reduced rhubarb juice topped up with prosecco – which will certainly be sipped at some point in the future.

I’m a sucker for a cake though, especially a wholesome, fruit-laced loaf. Not a fruitcake as such, but crumble topped apple cakes and strawberry and nectarine muffins, that kind of thing. And in the end it was to great a temptation to resist. I skimmed a few other recipes for inspiration, borrowed some bits from my trusty banana loaf recipe and cobbled together some ideas along with some twists and tweaks of my own and came up with this. I think it still needs a little work – I think honey would be a good, warm sweetener, and maybe a dash of buttermilk (or – good substitute, milk with a squeeze of lemon) somewhere along the line. I’ll let you know how I get on, but for now I’ll leave you with this squidgy, moreish, wholesome lump of a loaf with tingly nuggets of ginger peeking out like amber, and pale pink rhubarb streaking across like a sunset. Enjoy!

Rhubarb and ginger loaf

The fresh and fragrant loaf

You’ll need:

8oz plain flour

1 tsp baking powder

A pinch of salt

About five stalks of rhubarb

Around 4 oz of crystalised ginger

4 oz butter (room temp)

2 oz caster sugar and 2 oz dark sugar (The ratio is up to you really, I always like to mix in some dark when it involves fruit – I like the way it slightly caramelises)

2 eggs (beaten)

You’ll need to:

Grease your loaf tin and heat the oven up to gas mark 4

Sift your flour and add the butter, baking powder and salt – mix it with your fingers as it’s quite a dry mix and a bit messy to do with a whisk, the rhubarb provides a lot of moisture as it bakes. Alternatively, put it in a food processor.

Beat your eggs in and add the sugar and the chopped rhubarb and ginger.

Pop in it your lined tin and bake for around 50 minutes. Poke a skewer/knife in to see if it’s cooked or not.

Allow to cool a little in the tin before turning out. Delicious! The warm spice of the ginger with the gooey, tart squidge of the rhubarb is an irresistible combo, and the dark sugar caramelises it slightly – you can adjust the dark/caster sugar ratio as suits your tastes. You can even sprinkle some on the top before you bake for an extra crunch. I can’t help thinking I’ll add a little honey next time – and it would also be delicious served as a dessert with some lovely honey-sweetened whipped cream.

A pinky, golden slice of summer jolliness.

My love for rhubarb has well and truly been re-kindled, and I can’t wait to get stuck into some of the fabulous suggestions that came my way – it seems the humble pink stalks are a seriously well-loved summer ingredient.

Happy rhubarb times.

Hx

A Cornish wedding

8 Jun

Aaah Cornwall. The pace of life seems to slow down as soon as you cross the River Tamar, leaving Devon and the rest of England behind (everybody knows Cornwall isn’t really England). The space becomes wider – and wilder – hills open out into sweeping, gorse-covered slopes and houses become tinier and more crooked with every stop the train makes.

I have so many wondrous and magical memories of Cornwall. Although I only lived there for about eight months when I was on my journalism course, it always feels like home and I often think about rambling around over Gwithian collecting blackberries, ambling around St Ives clutching hot pasties, wild winter storms when cat fish would be flung from the harbour and onto the slippery, drenched path and jumping in the freezing November sea in a bikini – while everyone else was in wetsuits.

It was on my course that I met my darling friend Kate and her now husband Mike who’s wedding I travelled down for last weekend, and I have plenty of memories of turning up at their flat in my pyjamas to use their internet – until they moved out of town, maybe because of the repeated pyjama incidents? Riding massive, awkward-on-the-trot Rio while Kate laughed at me, taking their gangly, ginger, howling Shmoo (a leggy, lovely Hungarian vizsla) for his first explore of the beach, accidentally swimming with seals – fear! and drinking lots of tea. And Cornwall is one of those places that is so intrinsically linked with beautiful food – whether the inevitable golden, salty crust of a pasty or curl of clotted cream on a puffy, jam smeared scone or Mike’s homemade pizza, the beautiful fresh fish that is everywhere, baking crumble with fresh-picked blackberries or groaning with fullness outside St Ives’ finest Mexican joint after getting competitive with the food.

Since leaving Cornwall I visited it often from Brighton, a long but pretty drive down the coast, through blossom bubbling Dorset with it’s crumbling brick and neat thatched picture postcard cottages, into the West Country and down into Cornwall. But since I’ve been in Essex it really has been a coast to coast drive, from edge to tip, and I haven’t done it as often. This time I took the train and was lucky enough to completely by accident be on the same train from London as Kate’s sister, and although I’d never met her before there was no mistaking her, a carbon copy in looks, voice, mannerisms – it was totally disconcerting! But it was lovely to have company – and we even managed to put our joint charms towards engaging a gentlemanly escort from Par station to Fowey, after befriendly three relatively worse for wear chaps who were also in need of a taxi – and also on their way to a wedding. (Where comically the groom was even called Mike. But he was marrying Georgia, not Kate.) They paid, which was kind.

On arriving at the Old Quay House we were thoroughly disgusting from being squidged up on a cramped train for hours, and in dire need of a spruce up – but fortunately the hotel turned out to be the most beautiful and perfect place to shake off London grime and filth and breathe in fresh Cornwall jolliness. A haven of buttery biscuit and oatmeal with plenty of tall windows to let in the light, it couldn’t have been a more perfect antidote to the hassle of traveling.

Here’s the link: http://www.theoldquayhouse.com

The beautiful view from my window. Lushness!

Only one thing could have made our arrival happier – a gin and tonic on the terrace – and it was in my hands within moments of me walking out there feeling a million miles away from Essex. Heaven.

Our food adventures began at a bistro next door, which was kind enough to welcome in Shmoo too – although I think everywhere in Cornwall likes having dogs, if Lola ever heard about this she would be very determined to move there straight away. We were served up delicious wine and I enjoyed a very wonderful goats cheese souffle with caramelised onion marmalade and of course, being in Cornwall, had to go for crab, which I had topping a massive plate of linguine. Smothered in garlic and lemon and full of meaty crab chunks, it was utterly delicious – but sadly the service was so eyewateringly slow that non of us could quite bear to order dessert, by that time we were all yawning and restless, so we wandered back next door and contented ourselves with another drink instead.

And so onto the wedding day itself – which we woke up to in glorious sunshine, which was a happy surprise after gloomy forecasts. After, in my eyes anyway, the perfect breakfast of Greek yoghurt, granola and rhubarb, black coffee, apple juice and eggs royale – with generous rolls of thick smoked salmon beneath a perfectly poached egg, we wandered down to the beach through pretty, whitewashed Fowey. With Jubilee bunting fluttering in the breeze and roses tumbling down from steeply sloping gardens, it looked as happy as we were.

A sneaky peek out to sea…

When we arrived the sparkling sea was much too irresistible and fortunately for me, it turned out that Kate and Mike’s friend Emma is a kindred spirit in her matching inherent need to throw herself into any kind of water with the bounding enthusiasm of an overexcited labrador, and we even managed to drag Kate in for a pre-wedding dip. Of course then the boys had to prove their manliness and jump in off rocks…grrrrrr….it was a swampy, soaking walk back, but true to their faultless service, the staff at the Old Quay House didn’t bat an eyelid at our sandy puddles and instead collected our wet things to be freshly laundered and dried for the next morning.

After the entire wedding party jumped in their respective showers – accidentally leaving our bride shampooed up with no hot water – we waited, dolled up and somewhat less bedraggled than we’d been that morning for the most important part of our weekend.

The most beautiful thing about it being such a tiny wedding – just enough to fill the little hotel – was that every person there felt so connected to Mike and Kate. I’ve been to weddings where I’ve been stealthily trying to glance at my watch during the service and wondering when the toasting can begin, but everything about the wedding was so personal and perfect, and when Kate walked in, looking unbelievably angelic and beautiful – I think most of us half-expected her to come in wearing jodhpurs – I don’t think there was anyone who wasn’t sniffling and wiping away tears. Even Shmoo was quiet – until the signing of the register when he clearly felt desperately outraged to be left out of something so important. I think he would have offered his pawprint if only that counted for a legal signature.

The weather held out for us to have mojitos and Pimms on the terrace…and more mojitos and Pimms…and more. In fact more than anyone should ever really try and drink over the course of several hours. Melting fishcake canapes and even popping candy truffles did little to soak up the ridiculous amounts of rum floating around, and it was an extremely merry party that sat down to the wedding breakfast.

I started with a dinky little salmon trio. Complete with parmesan crisp it was an elegant affair and as yummy as it looked. Unfortunately it didn’t last very long.

Deliciousness.

I made the classic error of filling up on bread in an attempt to slow down the effects of the rum and by now the wine, but even the bread was so chewy and delicious that it was hard not to. And I still managed a valiant effort on my sea bass main, which came with the most delicate little baby asparagus and bursting, juicy vine roasted tomatoes. It’s one of those dishes I keep thinking back to and wishing would just appear in my kitchen now. Gosh darn it.

Anyone want to try and recreate this for me? I’m hungry just looking.

And while we all tucked into our food, we couldn’t help having a rather cruel laugh at poor old Shmoo, who could only gaze longingly at Mike’s steak.

The food envy!

(This photo was actually taken by Emma and not me – so really you should go and read her delicious blog as well, especially if you adore gorgeous fabric-y, button-y, textile-y, sewing-y adventures: http://emmeloucreates.blogspot.co.uk)

We couldn’t feel too sorry for him though as the gorgeous manager Martin had made him up his very own canape, which he enjoyed furtively, not quite sure whether something so delicious should really be coming his way.

While we all discussed what we’d ordered for dessert with a fair amount of defensiveness and competition already mounting, Kate looked smug, and we found out why when it turned out that unable to decide she’d ordered an assiette of all three options -vanilla seed panna cotta, trio of rhubarb – with a mouthwatering brulee, ice cream and crumble – and a delicious silky dark chocolate tart with mango sorbet. She even managed to not burst out of her beautiful dress – at that point anyway.

Our turn to have food envy! (Another lovely Emma pic)

The rain finally came, but I don’t think anyone noticed. The wine kept flowing and guests straggled off slowly – what a treat to just have to wander upstairs instead of the usual sorry state of a taxi journey back.

I’m sorry(I’m not really) to admit that I did not go to bed. I stayed up late and danced the Charleston and the waltz to AC/DC and even later decided that it would be a good idea to shimmy over the gate and perform an elegant dive into the sea, complete with lots of squealing and giggles – made less elegant by the fact that I was only in my knickers, the slight opposite of our modesty earlier that morning where we’d gone in fully clothed and demure. But us swimmers had fun – until we were told the next day that the hotel had CCTV footage on the terrace, and no doubt had a good old laugh at their stupid, intoxicated, naked guests.

Creeping down the next morning I managed to just about enjoy another perfect breakfast of eggs florentine (not quite able to stomach the salmon again) and a pot of green tea – green to match my face I think. I wasn’t feeling very strong, but I finally managed to weepily drag myself from the warm embrace of Cornwall and a wonderful weekend and slump onto the long train back home. Please can I come again soon?

I scream, you scream, we all scream…etc….

5 Jun

Just a very short note, although I have eaten LOTS of wonderful food to blog about this weekend….for those of you lucky enough to live within spitting distance of lovely Leigh-on-Sea, you must pop in and sample an ice cream from divine new ice cream parlour Hokey Pokey.

According to them, ‘eccco un poco’ used to be the tempting cry that went up from early Italian ice cream vendors in London as they pushed their handcarts around the streets advertising their tasty wares. From that came the slang ‘hokey pokey’, which they’ve taken as their own name.

With a selection of the most tantalising flavours including honey and lavender, white chocolate and cardamom, salted caramel and hokey pokey – a sort of honeycomb crunch – it’s not exactly your bog standard lolly joint. And all of the loveliness is made by the small family team on the shop premises, so you know it hasn’t come far. That must account for it’s deliciousness!

I’ll be popping down there (fingers crossed!) to do a food feature for our food supplement  at some point soon, so keep an eye out for that if you get the Echo, but until then, here’s a pic of my first foray into Hokey Pokey joy, a honey and lavender/salted caramel combo…delicious!

Pure ice creamy happiness....

Happy eating.

Hx